The Pen Doctor XXVI: Special “51” Issue

(This page revised October 16, 2015)

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This is a special Parker “51” issue of the Pen Doctor. Here you will find quick and easy solutions to four problems that “51” repairers often face. If the answer to your particular need isn’t here, try looking for it in Issue XII, XIV, XVI, XVII, XXII, or XXV of the Pen Doctor.


Removing a Stuck Cap Jewel

Help! This is the second “51” I’ve had where the cap jewel was almost impossible to get out, and when it did come out the jewel was stuck in the brass bushing and they came out together. The first time, I broke the jewel off its shank trying to get it out of the bushing. Is there a good way to do this?

Pliers over heat gunRx:All you need is serrated-nose pliers and a heat gun. Grasp the bushing endwise in the pliers as shown in the photo to the right. Turn on the heat gun and position the pliers with the bushing and jewel as shown. With the bushing placed this way, the pliers won't eat the threads on the bushing; and because the celluloid jewel is not in the hot air blast, it’s not likely to burst into flame. Every few seconds, remove from the heat and gently try to unscrew the jewel from the bushing. When it’s warm enough, it will come out. (Leave it over the heat too long, and you could still have to put out a fire, so lean toward caution.) Use a brass-bristle brush to brush the shellac off the shank threads, and you’re golden.

This technique works exactly the same for the jewels in most Vacumatics. (A few lower-end Vacs have a jewel with a wider shank and no brass bushing.)

Correcting Poor Flow by Aligning the Nib, Feed, and Collector

My “51” has terrible flow. I've tried different inks, I've tried spreading the nib tines, I've torn the pen down and cleaned it. Nothing works. I haven’t tried voodoo yet, is that the next step?

“51” nib alignmentRx:When Parker introduced the “51”, assemblers were instructed to align the top of the nib with the broad air passage running along one side of the collector. In the 1950s, the company published a service bulletin saying that aligning the nib and feed with the collector didn’t matter. That service bulletin was wrong. Alignment does matter. It’s easy to align the nib the way Parker did at first because the notch in the back end of the nib is the same width as the air passage in the collector. But I’ve found by experimentation that this top-side alignment is not the one to worry about. (Collectors were machined to very tight tolerances, but the exact alignment of the slots in the collector relative to each other was not considered that critical.) What’s important is that the slot in the bottom of the nib be aligned with the full-length slit in the collector, opposite the broad air passage, as shown in the photo to the left.

Cleaning a Collector

The collector in my Parker “51” is all stained and cruddy. I’ve tried to clean it, but I’m not getting very far. How do you clean a collector?

Rx:The best way to clean a collector is to drop it into a small jar of Koh-I-Noor Rapido-eze. This product is made for cleaning India ink out of artists’ pens, but it works like magic on ordinary fountain pen ink, too. I have a Waterman ink bottle full of it; I drop a collector in, put the cap on, shake the bottle up, and then just let it sit for half an hour or so while I work on other things. When I come back, I can fish the collector out of the bottle with tweezers, rinse it off with water, and brush it with an ordinary bristle (not Nylon) fingernail brush. (Brush crosswise, so that the bristles will get down into the slots between the fins and push any remaining crud out.) A last rinse, blow dry, and the collector sparkles.

Occasionally, I have to use a 1" (25 mm) square of 0.002" (0.05 mm) brass shim stock to floss the slits in the collector before the final brushing and rinse.

Repairing a Softened Sac Nipple

I bought a really pretty dark blue aerometric “51” on eBay. When it came, the sac was rotten, so I bought some “51” sacs from David Nishimura. But when I took the pen apart I found the sac nipple all soft where the sac was stuck to it. Can I fix this somehow?

Connector with new nippleRx:When Parker started making the Aero-metric “51”, the material that was specified for the Pli-Glass sac turned out to be the wrong material. It was fine for use with the acrylic threaded connector parts Parker first used, but when production changed to injection-molded connectors, things got ugly. Over time, the sac would outgas a plasticizer that softened the molded parts. When the company’s engineers discovered this problem, they changed the sac formulation. No more parts suffered the softening, but there are still entirely too many “51”s floating around with sac nipples that are soft. These pens look like potential parts-bin fodder, but they don’t have to be if you have access to a machine lathe. (Woodturning lathes aren’t made for this kind of work.) Cut off the softened nipple, chuck the remaining part of the plastic connector piece in the lathe, and bore 14" diameter about 14" deep into the back of the connector. Fuse in a 12" length of 14" polystyrene tubing using Ambroid Pro-Weld, and install a new sac.

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